Roy Clark: 5 acts of a legend

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> Born into a musical family in 1933, Roy Clark took up guitar at 14 after receiving a $14.95 Sears Silvertone model for Christmas. In just two weeks, he had mastered open chords and was performing with his father, a government worker who moonlighted playing guitar, banjo and fiddle at Washington, D.C.–area dances.

> A local TV appearance in 1955 led to Clark receiving a radio job with singer Jimmy Dean, then a star on the Washington, D.C. scene. Dean axed him for constantly arriving late, saying, “You’re the most talented person I’ve ever fired.” Clark then became frontman for country singer Wanda Jackson and played lead guitar on her hit “Let’s Have a Party.”

> An insanely fast guitar picker, Clark, like his dad, was also fluent on fiddle and banjo. His confident stage presence and flair for comedy earned him a guest spot hosting the Tonight Show in 1963. In 1969, he achieved national fame when he and guitarist Buck Owens became cohosts of the TV comedy variety show Hee Haw. The program went into syndication after CBS canceled it in 1971, and soon became the most popular syndicated show in TV history.

> By the mid 1970s, Clark was among the most well-known entertainers in America, seen by 35 million viewers each week on Hee Haw and another 15 million when he would guest host the Tonight Show. He also made many guest TV appearances in addition to performing some 250 dates per year.

> Clark made an unprecedented sweep of the major country awards in 1974, when he was voted Entertainer of the Year by both the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music. That same year, he was named Country Music Star of the Year by the American Guild of Variety Artists. Clark lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma, up to his death from complications of pneumonia on November 15, 2018, at the age of 85.

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